Biting and nipping are natural puppy behaviours. Much like humans, puppies lose their “milk teeth” as they develop. This can cause considerable discomfort and, much like babies, your puppy will look to relieve this discomfort through biting, nipping, and chewing.
Unfortunately, puppies will sometimes direct this behaviour towards you, your family, and your belongings.
The puppy just out of being in a litter will think its normal behaviour from playing with siblings or mum and dad in this manner. It’s important to remember that your puppy doesn’t intend to hurt you.
While biting and nipping during the teething period is relatively normal, it’s important to stop this behaviour early to discourage your puppy from developing a biting habit. As your puppy grows into a larger dog, innocent biting could develop into a serious, painful problem.
How Can I Stop Puppy Biting?
With some patience and persistence, you can curb your puppy’s biting habit and prevent future biting. The following steps provide a guide to dealing with teething trouble.
The first step to stopping biting is to acknowledge that your puppy should not, under any circumstances, make contact with you using their teeth.
Puppies are most comfortable and well-behaved when there is a clear expectation of what is appropriate, and what is not. By acknowledging that biting is an inappropriate behaviour, you cement the expectation that your puppy should not be doing it.
When puppies play, there may be times when one oversteps the boundary. When this occurs, the other puppy will often let out a “yelp” to signal their disapproval. Litter mates will establish expectations this way and it’s important you do too.
If your puppy bites or nips you, it’s vital that you alert your puppy to the fact that it hurt and that it’s inappropriate behaviour. This can be done by:
- Letting out your own “yelp” or “ow” sound
- Pulling away can lead to a little puppy tooth catching your skin, and can hurt. Try not to move fast, but slow and controlled, kids might need to be told with softer skin how to be around a playful puppy.
- Letting out a stern “ah ah” or “ow” (be sure not to yell) and not to use “No!”, avoiding this word will benefit learning for the puppy because for example, in normal day living, if someone asks “Do you want a coffee?” and the answer is “No!” It can create confusion if that’s the go to word for correction behaviour.
This way, you can teach your puppy that biting hurts and encourage them to avoid biting you in the future.
It’s important to maintain a firm, stern attitude when training your puppy not to bite. If you act in a playful manner, your puppy may view your reactions as playful behaviour, initiating a frustrating game. Once you have acknowledged negative behaviour, it is sometimes best to ignore it and allow your puppy to stop of their own accord.
Once you have acknowledged that biting is inappropriate behaviour, it’s important to give your puppy something else to chew on; this is called redirection.
Redirect your puppies desire to bite by providing things that you want them to chew. If your puppy is teething, their instinct is to relieve oral discomfort by chewing. Rather than trying to fight this instinct, you can have a great deal of success by learning to redirect it.
Have chew toys available at all times during the teething stage to encourage your puppy to choose these over you, your family, and your belongings.
If you notice that your puppy seems to nibble on you at certain times or in particular locations and situations, have a toy on hand to anticipate the behaviour.
If your puppy does bite you, acknowledge the behaviour, as in step 1. After your “yelp”, provide your puppy with a chew toy for them to nibble on.
* It’s important to avoid using redirection as a treat. Do not give your puppy food after they have bitten you. This will only encourage and reward the behaviour.
You can discourage biting quite effectively by giving your puppy attention and praise through other, more positive games.
Some puppies learn to view biting as “play time”. This is especially true if you encourage the behaviour through attention or treats. When your puppy associates biting with reward, they are more likely to maintain a habit of biting as they get older.
Despite their innocent intent, it’s important to never view biting as a form of play. This can be especially difficult if your puppy comes to view any reaction as a reward of attention.
You can exercise your puppy’s desire to chew and play roughly through games.
Tug-o-war and fetch are both excellent examples of games which appease your puppy’s instinct to play and chew. By playing these games with your puppy, you can drain their energy, satisfy their impulses, and improve your bond with them.
Thus, play is an excellent way to reduce biting behaviour in puppies.
Lastly, you can discourage your puppy from chewing by allowing them to play with other friendly puppies.
Puppies naturally learn to handle biting behaviour through play. By allowing your puppy to play with others, they can exercise their need to chew without it affecting you.
Take your puppy to dog parks and puppy preschools, invite friends with puppies over for play dates, and search for puppy groups on Facebook.
A puppy who has the opportunity to expend their energy will be a lot calmer and happier. What’s more, a puppy who has used up their energy will be less likely to nibble on you and your furniture.
Even if only once or twice a month, allowing your puppy to socialise with other puppies will make them more rounded and happy overall. When your puppy isn’t playing with others, you can help expend their energy through games, walks, and training.
The most important thing to remember about training your puppy not to bite is that chewing is a natural instinct. It takes patience, persistence, and dedication to set clear expectations and firm guidelines.
If your puppy continues to chew, nibble, and bite, even after a month or so of consistent training, it may be best to contact a local trainer who can provide more individualised assistance.
Important to note, if a puppy is playful and catches jeans or clothing while you’re walking with their puppy tooth, stop and try to unhook their little puppy teeth, otherwise they might lose the K9 tooth and you might need to put a dollar under the puppy pillow.
Be consistent with the puppies training (meaning everyone, friends & family) everyone doing the same training techniques for quicker learning for the puppies.